Retired garda asked for checks on tax files
A RETIRED garda working as a private investigator for Quinn Insurance has admitted asking his daughter-in-law, a former Revenue Commissioners employee, to look up files of people who had claims against the insurer.
A sentence hearing of three people charged with offences under the Data Protection Act heard that gardaí were called in to investigate data breaches relating to an executive of Brinks Allied security company.
There was a fear that the breaches could be part of a plot to carry out a “tiger kidnapping” on the employee and his family.
A second data breach was related to a former employee of the Revenue Commissioners who was then working for the European Anti-Fraud office in Brussels and was involved in investigating the importation of tobacco products.
The court heard how a Garda investigation found that the motives for the data breaches were “more mundane than sinister” and related to business associations and not any other criminal activity.
Adele McKeown (27), Knockshee View, Old Golf Links Road, Blackrock, Co Louth, pleaded guilty to disclosing personal data to her father John McKeown (51) on March 5th, 2009.
Her father, of Ave Maria, Dublin Road, Dundalk, admitted asking her to disclose the data.
Retired Det Garda Gerry Murray (58), also with an address in Dundalk, pleaded guilty to asking Adele McKeown to look up Revenue records for a named individual on June 10th, 2010.
Adele McKeown was also charged with four other counts of disclosing personal data of four other named individuals and these charges were taken into consideration.
At the time Adele McKeown was engaged to and has since married Murray’s son, who is a member of the Defence Forces.
Judge Patrick McCartan applied the Probation Act to each of the accused and ordered that they pay €1,000 to the children’s hospital in Crumlin.
Det Sgt Nigel Mulleady told Maurice Coffey, prosecuting, that gardaí were called in by the Revenue Commissioners when inquiries about the anti-fraud official’s tax records from a UK-based private investigator raised suspicions.
An internal investigator with the Revenue Commissioners carried out a check on the injured party’s file and it emerged that Adele McKeown had been accessing that file and others, including the file of a senior executive at Brinks Allied.
In October 2010, Adele McKeown was interviewed by gardaí and admitted looking up the first man’s file at the request of her father.
Det Sgt Mulleady said John McKeown asked his daughter to check up on this man’s record as a favour to a business associate of his but that neither of the McKeowns received any financial reward.
The court heard that Murray was carrying out investigations on behalf of Quinn Insurance in relation to people who had claims against the insurance company.
Mr Coffey said in relation to both injured parties that it was a coincidence that their jobs were sensitive.
There was no “nefarious motivation” involved, he added.
Remy Farrell SC, defending all three, said Murray didn’t realise he was breaking the law.
He said Adele McKeown had worked for Revenue since she was 22 and had lost her job as a result of her actions.
Mr Farrell said Murray and John McKeown were highly regarded in the local community and both had a history of involvement with local charities.
He said Murray had an exemplary service with the Garda and felt a deep sense of shame for involving himself and his in-laws in this action.
Judge McCartan said the case should challenge a “culture of letting information become available”.
He said that members of the public were entitled to have confidence that information held about them would not be made available to anyone else.
He said the breaches in this case were not unduly sinister and that they were possibly done without an appreciation of the seriousness of the actions.